SOMPTING teenager Anastasia Harker finally hopes to fulfil a dream after two years of ill health.
The 17-year-old is battling multiple chronic conditions that limit her day-to-day life but hopes to be well enough to complete a sponsored skydive early next year.
Anastasia has been helped on her difficult journey by her beagle puppy, Archie, and she wants to raise money for Dogs for Good as a result.
“Considering my circumstances, I felt that I wanted to make a difference to someone else’s life,” she explained.
“I used to thrive off making someone else happy and consider it a successful day if I had done so but unfortunately it doesn’t feel like I do so much any more.
“So I decided to combine two things that really play a massive part in my life – my passion for canine training, the love of my pup Archie and how his love and company have made all the difference in my journey and through the horrid health and stressful situation I am in.”
Dogs for Good is a national charity that trains assistance dogs for adults and children with a physical disability.
Anastasia said: “They train dogs to help people in all sorts of situations. They provide dogs that help with certain health conditions and mental health support dogs. They help people in negative situations, be it for their physical or mental health, and bring them the love and companionship of a dog. What could be better?”
She said her own life has been ‘an absolute rollercoaster’ for the past two years.
In December 2013, her granddad, beloved dog Willow and a dear friend all died within a ten-day period.
While coping with the heartbreak, Anastasia had an infection that made her sick for nearly a month.
Three weeks later, while on holiday in Tenerife with her parents Natasha and Russell, she began to bring up blood, out of the blue.
“As time went on, everything escalated pretty quickly,” she said. “I could barely keep any food down.
“Later, I was hospitalised and diagnosed with Coeliac disease. I had always had an issue with my tummy but then chronic constipation kicked in and now I get bloats so severe that my tummy grows to the size of a bowling ball. It can hurt so much I can barely walk, so sometimes, I have to resort to using a wheelchair.”
Through the first months of her illness, Anastasia was studying for her GCSEs and as a result, she did not get the top grades she had previously expected. She was, however, relieved to pass every exam.
It was Archie who helped her through, keeping her company while at home alone and spurring her on.
Since October last year, Anastasia has had to live with a feeding tube from her nose to her stomach and her complicated health situation has meant she was unable to remain at college.
At first, she set up a small business from home, Willow’s Doggy Day Care, which was very successful.
She then started training as a canine behaviourist and is halfway through her British College of Canine Studies course. She has now set up Willow’s Puppy/Dog Training and Rehabilitation Services.
Anastasia added: “I am making my own rehabilitation programme independently through what I have been learning on my courses, which will be ready by the time my course has been completed.”
She has also set up an online store, called Aphrodite’s Corner, which sells spiritual goods linked to different cultures and religions around the world.
Visit www.justgiving.com/Anastasia-Harker?utm_id=35 to make a donation. The skydive is planned for late February or early March and the target is £500.
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